Alleging that there was insufficient evidence to convict him, the self-styled ambassador of the Conch Republic has asked the federal courts for a new trial.
The Nimrod Sterling, formerly known as Nimrod Sanders, who is currently serving a 57-month federal prison sentence in Texas, filed the motion Dec. 13 in the Eastern District of Arkansas court, where he was convicted of impersonating a foreign diplomatic officer to get something of value, and being a felon in possession of a firearm.
In the court filing, Sterling said, “there was no evidence presented at trial that he pretended to be a diplomatic official of a foreign government ‘duly accredited’ as such to the United States.”
That allegation deals with Sterling telling an Arkansas State Trooper in 2013 that he had diplomatic immunity and could not be issued a traffic ticket for speeding.
The Conch Republic is a micronation declared as a tongue-in-cheek secession of the city of Key West, Florida, from the United States on April 23, 1982. It has been maintained as a tourism booster for the city since. Several years ago, it sold souvenir ambassadorial and other credentials to tourists. There are no legitimate ambassadors from that area.
The second count, felon in possession of a firearm, stems from a search warrant that Federal Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents served at Sterling’s house in the 1100 block of South Olive Street on Oct. 14, 2014, where they found a 12-gauge shotgun and shells.
Sterling said in the court filing that the government “did not prove” that he “knowingly” possessed said 12-gauge shotgun, “as no fingerprints, DNA or photographs were produced unequivocally connecting” him to the gun.
He contended that the only evidence presented at the federal trial that connected him to the shotgun was testimony from two men who had worked for him. Sterling contended that one of the two sought to have Sterling convicted to “further his law enforcement career.”
Sterling had previously been convicted of bank robbery in Illinois and residential burglary, along with two counts of being a felon in possession of a firearm in Arkansas.
In addition to the federal charges, Sterling was found guilty of two counts of aggravated assault stemming from an incident where he was accused of pointing a gun at two students as they were leaving Pine Bluff High School on Sept. 30, 2014.
He was fined $10,000 but did not receive any jail time for that conviction. In a phone call from the Jefferson County Adult Detention Center after the trial, Sterling said, “I believe when they figured out that they didn’t do it, they didn’t give me any jail time.”
Sterling claimed in letters to the Commercial that the two girls lied in their testimony, and in the latest filing, contends that a jail deputy conspired with one of the men and introduced the man to one of the high school students. Although both girls are now adults, they were juveniles when the incident occurred, and the Commercial has not used their names.
He has filed a civil lawsuit against a number of jail deputies and against Chief Deputy Greg Bolin for conspiracy, and for allegedly depriving him of his rights while he was held at the adult detention center.
In a letter that accompanied the latest court filing, Sterling repeated a statement he had made about state prosecutors Bryan Achorn and Wayne Juneau that he “double dared” them to take him to trial, applying it this time to federal prosecutors. He also indicated he plans to add Achorn and Juneau to the lawsuit involving the jail deputies.
“Honestly, the people in Pine Bluff, the jury and my so-called friends, etc., all should never have doubted my will to fight or my intelligence,” Sterling said in the letter. “And today, I ponder the words of Dr. King in new light,” ‘In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.’”
Sterling also said in the letter that he had “A Tell-All” book coming out in the spring entitled “TRUTH (Exposing a Government Conspiracy ‘Operation Get Sterling),” along with “a handful of pre-arranged talk show interviews on my release.”
A separate filing Dec. 15, 2016, from federal prosecutors asked for additional time to respond to the motions by Sterling, citing the lead prosecutor’s work schedule, and the unavailability of co-counsel. On Dec. 30, Judge Billy Roy Wilson granted the request and gave the federal prosecutors until Feb. 13 to respond to the motions for a new trial.